Tuesday, March 28, 2006
I haven't been reading as much as I wanted. Time was when I thought of this Middle East sojourn as a creative impetus - I could take a break to think and then some. Alas, I signed up or got signed up to so many commitments I'm having difficulty balancing all of them. Was it the desire to fill the empty spaces of my life, or was it elemental rudderlessness as usual?
I'd actually pick the first - it's not that my life lacks direction, it's just that sometimes I let go of the helm once in a while or mayhap whiffle in the face of something new and unexpected. That has been my thing for four years (broken only by my committing to work here). I lost my job, I disappointed tons of friends, I threw away two opportunities (umm, make that three) for a lifetime commitment with otherwise eligible women. Along the way, of course, I had finally grasped the identity which seemed to have eluded me for years (and finally decided I was in between being a total a**hole and a total wuss).
Which brings me back again to the first question. Is there so much empty space in my life that I'm searching for things to fill them? Just recently I wrote that I didn't need a special someone to make my life relevant. Or something to that effect.
Hannah Arendt once said, "The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil." Is this what troubles me -- that I really haven't made up my mind on an objective good, or am I caught in so many shades of goodness I don't know which one to choose. Maybe the latter.
It's not as if I'm caught in a quandary all the time; I just believe that the condition I'm in is not the condition to which I am best suited. Maybe I should have been an academic, or perhaps should have blazed my way into one degree after another (after all, my brain is attuned to such pursuits). Maybe I should have been a priest, ministering to a flock of people who need me. God knows that once was an option. It still remains one.
Maybe I should have been a healer. Maybe I should have let my idealism take me to the mountains.
(Count the "maybes" and the number should be distressing. It's my favorite word today.)
Or, just as I have reached this stage of amazing possibility (more so than any other time except when I entered college), I have not yet learned the true value of temperance.
I still want everything yet refuse to yield nothing. It's not that I have so little to lose; it's just that when I have finally learned to appreciate the things that have come and gone, I must learn to make new choices. It's as if I'm caught between intimacy/isolation and generativity/self-absorption, still incomplete in either way and now vying to be the boss of me.
Temperance means learning the true art of restraint - learning when to stretch forth your hand or when to pull it back. I can only be giving if I am selfish in some things - for I cannot give what I do not have. Still, too, I must take whatever is freely given to me, but not take too much lest I exhaust the bounty given to me.
My life has been simple enough. Maybe I should simplify it further.
However, another thought that comes to me, from Hannah Arendt herself (again) is this:
The human condition is such that pain and effort are not just symptoms which can be removed without changing life itself; they are the modes in which life itself, together with the necessity to which it is bound, makes itself felt. For mortals, the ''easy life of the gods'' would be a lifeless life.
See now, this is more than reason enough to choose which battles can be best won. I can't choose them all.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
The 70's were the peak of self-help programs and behaviorists and the gestalters took center stage. One of the staples of this period is the selfsame Johari Window developed by Joe Luft and Harry Ingham. This model remains very useful in developing self-awareness and as a feedback mechanism.
Finally some people put it up as an online test. Of course the assessments of other people will only be valid if there is a feedback session... let's see if this thing yields some surprises...
Notwithstanding the obvious oppositionist slant of the Inquirer, the comments of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez have now made it to the pantheon of the absurd.
Anyone with a boom box or a virtual pulpit can say anything, even me. Fr. Bernas, ostensibly, is proffering his opinion on his field of expertise. He is after all, one of the last remaining constitutional experts since the time of the Marcoses. How can such opinions be called "destabilizing"? Sedition, after all, is in the eye of the beholder. Good thing Fr. Bernas is, as Gonzalez rightly described, a "man of the cloth" and responded in a most compassionate (and morally upright) fashion.
I wonder if he is going to level the full brunt of his intellectual abilities and impact of his moral authority against Gonzalez, and by proxy, the Arroyo administration. David against Goliath? Maybe that would be the appropriate image. Hmmm...this has the makings of a Sonny Liston-Cassius Clay fight. Who's Clay (now Muhammad Ali), and who's Liston?
Anyhow, just a word before I exit to Secretary Gonzalez: Congratulations! You are now in line to make it to the Senate! Stranger things than this have happened, anyhow.
As for me, I'd be pleased to be called seditious by the Philippine government - at least I'm no longer small fry. HAHAHAHAHA!
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
In The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand writes a scene where a reporter, Ellsworth Toohey, comes face to face with the hero (and his own self-named mortal enemy) Howard Roark. Toohey has just bashed Roark in the papers and even on radio. Since the novel was written before the advent of television, if we were to put it in perspective, Toohey would have used this platform to slam Roark and his work (for non-Ayn Rand fans, Roark is an iconoclast architect reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright). Ditto for the Internet.
Toohey speaks to Roark:
We're alone. Why don't you tell me what you think of me.
Roark deadpans: But I don't think of you.
In this piece today, I am reminded that people often listen to the people whom they feel share their views, and most audiences are already pre-disposed to agree with a speaker they like. Classic example is this: why would an ordinary person stay tuned in to a speech of a politician he doesn't support? One easy test is the degeneration of news commentary to sound bites. It's easier to get a rise out of people with these statements.
I still am a big fan of Conrad de Quiros. When I was younger and only the Manila Bulletin (still called Bulletin Today at the time) was the staple fare in our house, I lapped up the columns of Joe Guevarra (who at some point must have been the paragon of "envelopmental journalism") and Jess Bigornia (who sometimes made more sense). It made me think then, shoot, writing is easy, these hacks could pull it off and get paid handsomely for it.
With the onset of the Yellow Fever and the eventual unshackling of the press, we switched to the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Philippine Star and at once I became a disciple of the Big Man, Louie Beltran (I wonder to this day how he, Art Borjal, and Max Soliven could co-exist. Good times all around). Then the honeymoon with Cory Aquino ended and journalists had found new homes with the growth of the free press.
Eventually it was the Daily Globe for me, and it was through this now-defunct broadsheet (it morphed to TODAY, and now the Manila Standard TODAY) that I had my first encounter with Conrad de Quiros. He wielded the pen (figuratively) like a master swordsman - a clinical slasher at times, piercing and cutting to the quick, and then a consummate artist during others, sublime and thought-provoking. Or a combination of both.
Up to this day, I rue the day I did not follow through on the journalistic career path. Well, I pretty much ruined my own life choices by my own doing back then. Even so, while I am not a journalist, I have grown up to be a writer in my own right, albeit not commercially. (By the way, it doesn't take a whole lot of imagination to write, just a whole lot of time)
Meantime, De Quiros remains one of my favorites, though at times he suffers from what I call "constipation." He does need to let go once in a while, and write pieces like this one to which I am linking. As to his take on the high comedy that is otherwise known as Philippine politics, I am with him and so many others in spirit but share little in his approach.
I believe he has actually turned off a number of his fans who have soured up on his obessesion with PGMA. True, she represents a far more insidious evil than any politician in the past twenty years (she wouldn't stand up to Marcos in a heartbeat, but at least that man had charisma and a far greater understanding of what makes Filipinos tick). But the issue has eluded resolution, and until there is some form of resolution, any more helpings of it would jam up anyone's craw. There is only so much fire and brimstone that one can digest.
Anyway, Conrad de Quiros still rocks.
For my own part, I wonder really if there is SOMEONE OUT THERE who reads these thoughts, and then remarks to himself or herself, "Hey, this dude has something good going over here." I teach some high school kids the finer points of the use of the language, and to this day I hold true to my belief that random ramblings, however deeply inspired, don't take much skill, and as such are third-rate. This maxim guides most of the writing in this blog . . . still, I am not writing this for therapy. I am writing this in the hope of reaching an audience, and I do hope in some way, somebody is touched by what I am saying. It may be tough reading, because I do write in a constipated fashion at times.
Well I am compelled to write anyway. It's good to keep on wondering anyhow.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Two years. Has it been that long? (Mental image: Jeremy Piven going ballistic on John Cusack in "Grosse Pointe Blank" Yes, it's been that long, only). It seems quite longer.
Was it because I finally became more of my own person because of my stay here in Saudi Arabia? Maybe.
My personal theory is that the entire world that you could move around in --- work, friends, friends of friends (to the nth degree that you can reach) --- is a very small place. Masikip ang mundo mo, 'ika nga. And because that world is so small --- it's easy to get caught up in it, so easy for your life to flow into the cracks and seams and fill this world. Or be filled by it. Time will distend and distort, and your sense of place is slowly redefined.
Soon enough, you would think of this as your own place, and everyone else except Saudis becomes a "foreigner," even though you yourself are an expatriate. At odd moments, you would refer to your usual haunts in the Philippines as if they are just a taxi ride away. More often than not, when you talk about a place back home with a kababayan, you would say "dito" without finding it strange. The mind is a mystical thing, and its resilience is something to which I will put no limits.
Still, we are all finite creatures. Time has its own claim on us. Though the year 2005 did not have as much personal drama as 2004 did, it still had its own share of changes. Now 2006 has unfurled her cloak ... and there is one significant change that will happen in our family - one of my sisters is finally getting married.
I still don't know what to make of it. Overall I am happy that her time has finally come. A wise friend once said that marriage does not necessarily mean a better life, it just means a different set of priorities. As a single person you are free to give your heart to a cause or to your job. The job won't love you back, but you can afford to be consumed by your personal trail of success. That doesn't mean that there is less passion in your life. Passion is not controlled by an "on" or "off" switch.
Of course I have no true moral authority to talk about married life, being an unmarried person. While dreams of a true love may occupy my thoughts once in a while, I have since come to accept that marriage is more a pragmatic decision than a romantic one. It's still the same kind of decisions --- when to clean up, what to eat, how to spend free time. Only now it's multiplied by two, and then by three, and so on and so forth.
Even though I know this intellectually, it's still difficult to lap up. Not enough trust, primarily in my own self, I guess.
So now my sister is taking this step - and I do hope she will have children very very soon, as her time to have one is growing short. I wouldn't mind if she were to come home this June with a growing seed within her womb. Among my sisters, with all due respect, she was the one who was best equipped for motherhood. As to being a wife, we-ell, that's the part I don't know what to make of.
TRUST. TRUST and BELIEVE. My faith in people, ironically, has been reinforced by my stay in the Middle East rather than detracting from it. People are essentially born good. It's this world and twisted thinking that does us in. I will trust and believe that my sister and her husband-to-be will enjoy all the sweet things that life will make possible for them. Ehem, last correction. It's not I will. I do.
So what does all of this have to do with me? Nothing much, really. But I feel the additional burden of time weighing down on me. Soon I will be faced with the reality that should I wish to make the change, I will have less people of the ideal age (whom I will regularly encounter, mind you) for me to make the choice. Pressure? Inasmuch that I don't allow it to take front-and-center stage in my consciousness, undoubtedly the pressure is there.
It all comes back to this - why did I leave my home? I have found a niche here in Saudi Arabia, but this land is alien to me. Every now and then I watch the clock, and my heart still ticks on Manila time. My tongue still longs for the flavor of home-cooked meals, and my nose will always miss the aroma of the wet, damp earth of our garden. Mix and mesh all of these experiences together and it all boils down to this one question - for whom or what am I exactly doing all this?
I am confident I won't be alone come THE DAY --- I led my life, and my life has led me, all through these years, to be with young people who would someday live the life I have not lived --- and they or their children, will be with me in some way or other, wherever this road that I tread will take me.
Still, it would be nice to cross the threshold of my own door, dust my shoes on the welcome mat, and figuratively hang my hat at the end of each day in a place I call my own, and hear the patter of little feet rushing to meet me, and the din of excited voices expressing gladness that I have come home.
That will be another day, and something I wish will come very soon. Insh'allah. Insh'allah. God will reveal this to me in His own time. Let's just leave it for now that I would like to have a tiny hint, pretty please?
It is appropriate that I end this post with something from Marianne Williamson, from her book A Return to Love. This particular quote has been attributed, quite erroneously, to former South African President Nelson Mandela. Thanks to Charmaine V. for sharing this.
May these words light my path for another year here in Saudi Arabia.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?" Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we subconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Monday, March 20, 2006
|Your Birthdate: October 5|
You have many talents, and you are great at sharing those talents with others.
Most people would be jealous of your clever intellect, but you're just too likeable to elicit jealousy.
Progressive and original, you're usually thinking up cutting edge ideas.
Quick witted and fast thinking, you have difficulty finding new challenges.
Your strength: Your superhuman brainpower
In the words of your typical horse race announcer, "There they go!"
The purges are beginning. No reason to fear? So you may say. So you may say.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Understand your masculine side,
Protect your female side.
Be the world's valley.
Huh? Sorry no breakfast yet, the synapses aren't firing. Get a sugary meal! That's right! Stuff yourself horrendously and try to see if you can shed all that weight! Hahahaha!
It's been a while since I put in some spontaneous thoughts and some news on what's happening, so I'll get these things down immediately ---
Almost a month has passed since our Area contest for TMI came up and I was slated to speak for two contests - the International Speech Contest and the Evaluation Contest. We were in the middle of some heavy project (what's new) and naturally I came to the contest unprepared.
It wasn't a brilliant performance, and naturally I wasn't even cited among the six contestants. Even third-best would have been sufficient. The first impulse that I got was: you didn't prepare well, aye? thee gets what thee deserves.
Later on, in one post-mortem conversation I had with my boss (who joined the Humorous Speech contest, and he came up empty too), and he mentioned that some cultural standards came to play in the judging of the contest. Indians were the primary judges in the contest, and some of our linguistic tricks and expressions were lost on them, we Filipinos being too "Westernized" and more American than British. And so on and so forth.
I prefer the first interpretation. We simply weren't good enough that day, and the better men took home the prizes. I did, of course, kept second-guessing myself that I went overtime in one of my speeches. Hmm, perhaps.
So I came out empty-handed. No big deal. Little mice could starve on the enormity of scale of other problems compared to mine.
The stand-off in Jericho has ended. One thing I am sure of: this conflict in the Middle East won't ever end if the decision-makers keep on thinking with their penises. These guys need to take a chill pill, perhaps a dozen, on a daily basis, stop and smell the flowers once in a while, and most importantly, start thinking that across the negotiation table there is another person who has to worry about the wife and kids, who bleeds and breathes and dies just the same, and, once in a while, has to keep his crack from chewing up his underwear, thus giving him a self-inflicted wedgie.
Really, now. I have the admire the stones on these guys - at least they are willing to shed blood for the sake of their nation and their beliefs, unlike some people I know back home in the Philippines (where have all the heroes gone, one wonders). No one doubts their courage - but it's a different kind of courage to dare to think PEACE.
It takes a different kind of courage to TRUST (No, not the condom! Get your brain out of the gutter, buddy!).
It takes a different kind of courage to believe. It's so much more convenient to put your belief behind the whoop-ass power of bombs and guns.
It takes a different kind of courage to admit defeat, to come home empty-handed. That empty hand, once opened, is the hand that could shake another's to acknowledge his or her presence.
It's a hand that could help another person through difficulty, to pull another person from a ditch or to help him or her up.
Most importantly, it's a hand that conveys the most basic of emotional support - a squeeze on the shoulder, or a soothing pat on the back.
There's no courage in simply having no fear of death. There's more courage in wanting to see others live and making the decision to help them.
See? That random quote is really useful these times. If this were a speech, I'd insert that quote right here. Heck, if I gave a speech like this one, I probably would have won that darned contest!
Petty bitterness can be somewhat of a drag, isn't it?
Monday, March 13, 2006
A simpler way of putting it, probably, would be:
Members of the middle class are not truly supportive of Mrs. Arroyo, but don't see a viable alternative among the many opponents facing her. Neither do they hate her enough. Meantime, they absolutely abhor the results and implications of extra-constitutional means to unseat her.
Manolo Q aptly points out the scathing truth about the events in the Philippines - the decisions we make simply mirror the leadership that we have. This time, the collective political quotient of our people has gone down a notch.
The signs of the times are much more palatable when the forms of legitimacy have been observed.
I am tempted to put up my hands and surrender trying to convince others that President Arroyo should step down. Some days are a lot more tempting than others.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
A friend just told me that this is what they get because Chris dared to play Superman. So the Big Man Upstairs zapped them for taking His glory in vain.
I didn't know if he was kidding, but after a while, it dawned on me that he was being earnest about what he said
If that is true, I'd rather not be Christian. I'd rather be some godless being. John Lennon would be right that our concept of God would just be a measure of our misery.
So I believe my friend is wrong. If God is in me, and I am capable of being more than a vengeful, hurtful person, then the God I worship is the person I would like to be, someday - as loving and as giving as possible.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
"And with that all-too-brief SONA, it became clear that GMA's agenda for the coming year is simple: divert people's attention from the real issue, and have them focus instead on charter change. And the congressmen and congresswomen lapped it up! I left the session hall feeling horrified at the immensity of the evil that we face: the evil of an administration that will bury the truth to cling to power at all cost; the evil of a political elite that will only perpetuate itself further in power; the evil of a possible class (or even civil) war between the have's and the have-nots.
So I've been generally at a loss as to what to do. We certainly have our work cut out for us. But the question is: what IS the work that needs to be done?
At this point, I would say that what we should do is re-focus the public's attention on the real issue at hand, which is GMA's accountability; not charter change, which is just a smokescreen. We should insist that any discussions on charter change should only take place after the impeachment process is finished, or after GMA is removed from office."
This quote was issued in reaction to the events unfolding from last July, when President Arroyo dodged a bullet after the legitimacy of her Presidency was (rightly) challenged. I'm not sure about the veracity of the quote, since I copied it from another blog (akosipaeng.blogspot.com), but it does bring to my mind the identity of the quotee: Atty. Tanya Lat.
Now, this is more of a name than an identity to me, since I haven't seen Tanya in about fifteen years, maybe more, and my memory of my being acquainted with her has been blurred by time and so many other newer memories.
I just remember my feeling bad for her because of this singular event during Discovery 49 (that was waaaay back in September 1989). I was placed in charge of soliciting retreat letters (palanca) from the retreatants' parents and I wasn't able to call back her folks as I had promised (they weren't there when I first called, and I got to speak to her, too). Which left me with the pressure of writing a palanca for her during the all-too important Parent Talk sequence.
Even then, some forms of incompetence can nourish thoughts of betrayal. I wonder what she felt during those times. In all likelihood, she would have forgotten by now, though I'm pretty certain I must have ruined part of the perfection that experience could have made possible for her.
Now, as to how her name came up, we are just completing our performance review and salary increase recommendations. and one of the Filipinos in one of the departments shared her surname. Remarkable, isn't it?
Tanya must be riding high by now . . . besides being counsel for the Akbayan party, apparently she lectures and writes as well. Impressive. And our only connection was that slight thread, even though we went to the same university.
Sigh... the connections we make, the lives we touch. Each moment has its own meaning, and it may catch us off-guard when our lives are literally napping. This is just a minor moment, but on the other hand, in certain cases, isn't it hurtful when something you've struggled to forget resurfaces at the most unlikely moment?
So finally the administration of GMA lifted Proclamation 1017. Whoopee for now, and of course, a big "eh, ano ngayon?" She can't get off that easily.
Last week, two OFWs based in Riyadh died following a shooting. Saudi police rained bullets into their van as the workers were making their way to their place of employment. Details are sketchy, but it is clear that the operational commander lost control of his men. Whether the shots were "covered by the fog-of-war," indiscriminate or deliberate is hard to say, and in the policemen's defense, tension was high since earlier that very morning other members of the Saudi security forces engaged suspected Al Qaeda militants. An attack at the oil installations at Abqaiq earlier that week also heightened tensions.
But tell that mistake to the grieving families. Economic considerations notwithstanding, it's never easy to lose someone that way. There will be a hole left --- a father, a husband, a son, a relative, a friend --- they will be missed.
It's just too close to home, and however I want to deny it, I fear for my family should the same happen to me. Oh, I've provided as much as I can by getting all the protection I can get, but any random bullet can considerably abbreviate my stay here. Permanently.
It's not a badge of honor (God forbid that), but the danger always exists. I pray for the best, always. Wouldn't want to collect on the bet that says otherwise.
Until then, just my own take on the answers we are looking for. The simple nub of the matter is that all the answers are out there, but so many cannot and will not refuse to grasp the ones that make the most sense, i.e. the one that leads to life. The wind blows it away, but it all comes back to you.
How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
How many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea?
Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
The traveling circus that is World Wide Wrestling Entertainment came to Manila last February 24 and 25. My friends, the lucky schmucks whose mugs you are currently observing, managed to get tickets for the show. (I'm not certain on which date, though I'd take a bet they got seats for Friday).
Given the rants I have had the past few days about Philippine politics and society in general, it's a nice break to be talking about something else. What better topic to choose than the WWE? You've got everything you need --- bigotry, cheap thrills, gratuitous yet (mostly) non-lethal violence, hot chicks, testosterone, revenge, intriguing story lines, cool moves, and quotable taunts. A slice of life, only really, really pumped up with the least amount of intelligence and just a modicum of sense.
Yup, that guarantees the WWE would appeal to the widest demographic range possible. That includes me and my fellow schmuck friends, the lucky bastards.
It figures --- why watch the circus that others would term current Philippine events when there is a higher-quality circus in the WWE? I'd certainly take my lumps for a being an insensitive bastard (not caring enough), but at least I'd have a memorable time. After all, who would remember the last political ruckus over the visceral experience of watching overgrown boys play-acting at killing one another?
Which reminds me --- my buddy Des (who has access to watch WWE in the States all the time)said that there would be a perfect name for a Filipino wrestler in the WWE --- echoing that of Sean "X-Pac" Waltman. His name?
P.S. The schmucks also had a chance to photograph with Aubrey Miles. AUBREY MILES! I will gladly be sodomized by a horny Saudi policeman now. (Hmm... on second thought, I'm not that despondent. Some Saudi asshole may take this seriously. I TAKE IT BACK! NOOOOO.....!!!!)